La Reine Hortense - Yacht de l'empereur, Havre

Artist: Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)

Date: 1856

Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative

Dimensions: Image: 31.8 x 41.3 cm (12 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)
Mount: 53.1 x 66.3 cm (20 7/8 x 26 1/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.273


Le Gray photographed the imperial yacht in the port of Le Havre in July 1856, just before it set off for Greenland and Spitzbergen on an expedition led by Prince Napoleon. The sleek vessel's rigging and guys seem to secure its perfect placement within Le Gray's frame.

In the late 1840s, Le Gray had helped perfect the paper negative process and the salted paper print, using to aesthetic advantage their tendency to exaggerate light and shadow and to impart a soft graininess to the picture. But in this photograph, and in the dramatic seascapes that followed and that won him international renown, Le Gray used a new technique-the glass plate negative and the albumen silver print-to achieve a limpid atmosphere, extreme clarity of detail, and flawless surface.